Great storytelling starts with knowing who you are talking to.
So when Christopher Davenport of the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference stopped by our offices to chat about storytelling, my mind immediately turned to data segmenting – naturally!
Because segmenting your constituents is essential for telling the right stories to the right constituents.
You can watch my full conversation with Christopher below. Hopefully it will inspire you to craft targeted messages to individual audiences!
There’s still time to purchase tickets to the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference! Click here to apply for a $100 scholarship from Bloomerang. If you’re attending, be sure to stop by my session on data segmenting!
Steven: All right.
Chris: All right.
Steven: Lay it on me.
Chris: All right. Steven?
Steven: Yes. Chris: Let’s talk segmenting because segmenting is something probably people are scared of.
Chris: They might not know the power of segmenting, why you need segmenting, and what exactly is segmenting.
Steven: It sounds scary.
Chris: It does.
Steven: It sounds like a dental procedure.
Chris: Yeah. It does.
Steven: That’s not a good thing. But it shouldn’t be scary. It’s awesome, actually. I think it’s the best way to unlock the true potential of the people you’re communicating to. I think that what a lot of nonprofits tend to do is, we have a bucket of donors. All the people who support us, they’re in one bucket and anytime we want to communicate to them or make news known to them, or ask for help, we send out our one message to that one bucket.
We don’t think about the fact that there are many, many different kinds of people in that bucket who may respond to messaging a certain way or through a certain channel, or most importantly, may respond to a different kind of ask than others. So when we don’t segment our messaging and our communication, we really set ourselves up for failure. I think that’s one of the reasons why perhaps donor retention rates are so low, and especially appeal rates are so low because we basically treat all of our donors like they’re all the same, which is really leaving a lot on the table.
Chris: One of the things I get asked all the time is, “Chris, okay. You’re all about storytelling. So since you know all about storytelling, what stories should I tell people?”
Chris: I always say, “Well, who are you telling the story to?”
Steven: Yes. That is the right first question.
Chris: So really, when people are talking storytelling and “What stories should I tell?” they need to start with segmenting who their audience is.
Steven: The audience, exactly. Because there’s no other way to craft a compelling story if you don’t know who you’re talking to. It becomes crafting “stories” plural, not just one story. Because you may have one story you want to tell to one kind of donor, and that’s different than a story that you want to tell to another kind of donor, or maybe a non-donor who is in your list.
I mean, that in its most basic form is a good way to start segmenting your donors versus your non-donors. Because you may have people on your email list, for example, who maybe they’ve come to an event or they’ve volunteered, but they have not donated. So what story do we need to tell those non-donors, and what story do we need to tell current donors so that they keep giving?
So that’s an example of a very simple way to approach segmenting. But you can go many, many layers deeper and the more layers further you go, usually the better the results because you’re getting very targeted and tailored communication to a specific type of constituent.
Chris: But let’s step back a little bit.
Chris: What are the types of things that you can actually segment? I mean, is it just the size of a gift?
Steven: It can be.
Chris: What can you segment?
Steven: We recommend you start off with four basic segments. So at a minimum, you would have these four segments and what it requires you to do is to know, first, your average gift size. So maybe your average donation is $25, or $70, or $114, whatever it is. Find out that gift amount. Then, segment by people who give above that amount and people who give below that amount. Then you can cross-section that by people who have given only once, so they’ve only given one gift to your organization, and then people who have given multiple gifts to your organization.
So you have four segments there. You have people who are repeat donors, above or below your average gift size, and first-time donors above or below your average gift size.
The reason we like first-time donors is, first-time donors, people who’ve only given one gift, they are at the highest risk of lapsing. The FEP report and lots of other reports of, say, donor retention, usually their retention rates are in the 20th percentile. So we’re losing about 8 out of 10 first-time donors. Those donors should be communicated to very specifically so that they give a second time because those reports also show that if you can get a second gift from someone, the retention rates can triple and quadruple even in some cases.
So once you get that second gift, you’re a little bit out of the woods in terms of retention. But for people who have given multiple times, we want them to keep giving, yes. But maybe you want to introduce other things to them, maybe volunteering if they’re not a volunteer already, maybe even being on a committee or board, or introducing a major gift